Discussion Board Online Discussions for Blended Learning How to Guide

Discussion Board
Online Discussions for Blended
Learning
How
to
Guide
BEST PRACTICES
CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, SACRAMENTO
The online discussion board can be a great way improve student learning in a blended learning 1
environment. Discussing topics online, asynchronously, can be just as beneficial (if not more) as
traditional, synchronous, in-class discussion. In the online environment, students can
thoughtfully add to a discussion, and cogitate on other student contributions – something that
may not be possible in the traditional classroom. Think about some of the “rapid-fire”
discussion that might go on in the traditional classroom – all students probably do not have the
opportunity to contribute. Research has shown that online students can feel isolated, so it’s
critical that opportunities for social networking and community building be provided.
To achieve a higher level of student learning on the online discussion board, three areas should
be considered: 1) cognitive presence, 2) social presence, and 3) teaching presence 2.
Figure 1: The community of Inquiry model.
Copyright 2003 R. Garrison, T. Anderson, W.
1
Blended learning is defined as the meaningful integration of classroom learning (face-to-face experiences) with activity
experienced online. “Blended learning” takes place in a hybrid class.
2 Garrison D.R., Kanuka H., 2003, Community of Inquiry model, in Blended learning: Uncovering its transformative potential in
higher education, Internet and Higher Education 7 95–105, Elsevier.
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Cognitive Presence
“… the extent to which the participants in any particular configuration of a
community of inquiry are able to construct meaning through sustained
communication.” (Garrison, 2003)
SacCT Discussion Board (cognitive presence)
Questions to ask yourself:
 Do you gage the effectiveness of your Discussion Board by quality of discourse or by
quantity?
 Is student interaction purposeful?
 Is the discussion structured and cohesive?
 Do your in-class discussions integrate meaningfully with your online discussions?
Techniques:
 Spend time developing quality discussion topics.
o If a topic has been started in class, create a discussion topic that moves the
discussion to a higher level (from “exploration” to “integration”, for example, or
from “integration” to “resolution”) 3.
o If starting a topic online, consider creating a topic that would encourage
progressive discussion (from “exploration” to “resolution”).
o Try to come up with engaging topics
 Be extremely mindful of your teaching presence on the discussion board.
o As an instructor, your facilitation and guidance is important. It is your job to
move a discussion stuck in an “exploration” stage to the next level – one that in
which students can engage in a deep level of learning.
o Challenge ideas, encourage students to test and research ideas. Ask engaging
questions.
o Don’t overdo it. Your students should carry the discussion – you are the “guide”.
 Provide clear requirements for participation. Requirements should address length or
quantity of posts, expectations for content (quality, relevance of posts), and timeliness.
o Create a “Discussion Board Guidelines” document for students to refer to.
This document can contain guidelines that are applicable to all discussion
assignments and should include an etiquette statement.
o Provide additional requirements for each topic within each topic description, if
needed, or remind your students to review discussion board guidelines within
your topic description.
o Include topic assignment due dates within the title or description for the topic.
o Grade your discussion topics following the guidelines you have created.
3
Garrison D.R., Cleveland M., 2005, Facilitating Cognitive Presence in Online Learning Interaction Is Not Enough, American
Journal of Distance Ed., 19(3), 133–148, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
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Survival techniques for large classrooms:
 Don’t reply to every student post. Doing so may “kill” a discussion anyway. You
should serve as a facilitator.
 Develop a Grading Form (aka “rubric”) to use to grade discussion posts; address quality
of posts as one of the criteria.
 Have the student send you a self-assessment (using a rubric) of their discussion, which
can include 1 or 2 their posts
 Create student groups (no more than 10 students per group). Creating smaller groups
for discussion facilitates better quality of interaction (and helps establish social presence).
o To create discussion groups from the SacCT Group Manager,
1. Using the Group Manager, create your groups.
2. After groups have been created, select them.
3. From the Create Group Activity menu at the bottom of the Group
Manager page, select Discussion Topic, then click the green arrow.
4. Proceed to create your discussion topic. The topic you create will be
replicated once for each group, with each member in the group only
having access to the topic designated for his or her group.
o To provide additional structure to your discussion groups, assign a student facilitator
to each group who would be in charge of leading the discussion and posting the
final resolution for the group to a main discussion area for the entire class.
Sample topics:
Figure 2: Topic requirements & prompt(s). This information is included in the topic description .
Figure 3: Group topic with assigned student facilitator; topic prompt not included here.
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Social Presence
“… the ability of learners to project their personal characteristics into the
community of inquiry, thereby presenting themselves as 'real people.'”
(Garrison, 2003)
SacCT Discussion Board (social presence)
Questions to ask yourself:
 Do you or your students feel a “sense of community” with regard to your online
discussion board?
 Are your students freely discussing, deliberating, and negotiating with each other
online? If not, do you think it’s because they don’t feel comfortable enough with each
other?
 What kind of discussion guidelines do you have in place, with regard to social
presence? Are you explicitly telling students what you expect? Do you grade students
on two-word responses? How many discussions posts are students required to make
per topic?
Techniques:
 Create an “Introductions” topic on your discussion board. During the first or second
week of class, require that students post to this topic, following your discussions
guidelines.
o Conduct preliminary introductions, in-class, to help students place names with
faces.
 Require that your students also post their picture on SacCT using the Roster
tool. To do this, the tool first must be enabled by the instructor, from
Manage Course > Tools. Students would then need to edit their profile
in the Roster tool in order to upload their photo.
o Require that your students answer five or six questions about themselves (perhaps
some optional, some required). Questions could be related to occupation,
hobbies, learning goals, course expectations, etc.
o Consider using the “Blog Topic” Discussion Board option instead of the
traditional threaded discussion for your “Introduction” topic. The blog format
tends to be a little less formal and more suited to this type of activity.
o Model what you expect from your students! Be the first to post an introduction,
because it’s important to build a student-faculty relationship as well.
 Create a “cyber café” discussion topic, which could serve as an open space for students
to talk about things unrelated to the course.
 Create a “tech help” or “general help” discussion topic that student can use to post
technical questions to. Posts to a topic can be set to be anonymous, if needed.
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Survival techniques for large classrooms:
 As with cognitive presence, consider creating student groups, with no more than 15
students per group. Creating smaller groups for discussion helps establish social
presence). Students may not feel as “lost” in a smaller group, and thus, would connect
better to classmates. Review the large classroom information regarding group
discussions from the last section (cognitive presence).
 During the first week of class, engage with as many students as possible on the
discussion board, greeting students by name individually or by several in one posting,
but after that, don’t respond to every posting. Establish your social presence early on,
thus, setting the stage for the rest of the semester.
Sample topics:
Figure 4: Sample Blogs, intended to develop community (social presence).
Figure 5: "Introduction" Blog in an online class.
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Teaching Presence
“… the design, facilitation, and direction of cognitive and social processes for the
purpose of realizing personally meaningful and educational worthwhile learning
outcomes.” (Garrison, 2003)
SacCT Discussion Board (teaching presence)
Questions to ask yourself:
 Are you encouraging active learning on your discussion board?
 Are you encouraging cooperation and reciprocity from your students?
 Are you communicating high expectations for your students?
 Do you give prompt feedback?
 Do you respect and acknowledge different ways of student learning?
Techniques:
 Grade your discussion topics. Some research argues that up the 40% of the course
grade should be attributed to course discussion/participation, although as little as 10%
of a course grade for online discussion participation can produce results.
 As the instructor, you are the facilitator of course discussion 4.
o Aim to establish the climate for learning.
o Draw in participants – prompt discussion and interaction between students.
o Ask questions to help guide the discussion or to trigger deeper thinking.
o Help the discussion along by identifying areas of agreement and disagreement.
o Assist your student in reaching a consensus and understanding.
o At the end of a discussion, summarize postings (see additional information below,
for summarizing discussions in large classrooms).
 Provide clear requirements for participation, in terms of netiquette, and time parameters.
See the techniques section for cognitive presence for additional information on developing
guidelines.
Survival techniques for large classrooms:
 Develop a Grading Form for discussion topics. Grading forms is also something that
can be used to address cognitive presence.
 Create a Frequently Asked Questions page to post student questions/answers to
 Refer all student technical issues to the University Help Desk and to online student
technical resources
 It is especially important to the success of the discussion board in the large classroom
that you establish your teaching presence right away.
 Plan response strategies and amounts of instructor responses prior to delivering the
course; explain to your students the types of responses that they can expect 5.
4
Picket, Alexandra. 2001. Understanding Teaching Presence Online (http://www.slideshare.net/alexandrapickett/teaching-
presence). SUNY Learning Network.
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 Summarize postings – summarizing postings for a topic is one way to show teaching
presence, provide feedback and prompt additional thought from your students.
Creating a quick summary can be done by reading through postings for a topic while
taking brief notes on trends that you see. Then use those notes to create a single
posting that is used to explain trends, clarify confusing points, and to offer additional
information based on responses (from Managing the Discussion Board).
o Summarizing a topic is also a great way to wind down a discussion that has
exceeded the number of reasonable postings or that has gotten out-of-hand, so
make sure that the topic is finished before posting a summary.
 Lurking might be a good strategy sometimes. Tell students that you will lurk during a
particular discussion - explain that you will be reading all posts, but that you won’t be
posting responses.
Sample topics:
Figure 6: "Introduction" topic; reference to Discussion Board Guidelines included in topic prompt.
Figure 7: Sample Guidelines document referenced in topic prompt above.
5
Texas Woman’s University Distance Education, Managing the Discussion Board for Large Sections,
(http://twuid.pbworks.com/Managing-the-Discussion-Board-for-Large-Sections)
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RESOURCES
Some of the strategies noted in this handout have been adapted from articles listed below.
 10 Tips for Managing Larger Classes Online in Blackboard
(http://www.onlinelearning.net/InstructorCommunity/tips_feb2001.html?s=122.q040
q691b.025g421y41). OnlineLearning.net.
 Garrison D.R., Kanuka H., 2003, Community of Inquiry model, in Blended learning:
Uncovering its transformative potential in higher education, Internet and Higher
Education 7 95–105, Elsevier.
 Garrison D.R., Cleveland M., 2005, Facilitating Cognitive Presence in Online Learning
Interaction Is Not Enough, American Journal of Distance Ed., 19(3), 133–148, Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates, Inc.
 Legacy Jane. 2005. Planning and Facilitating Academic Discourse in Discussion Boards. Online
[email protected]
 Picket, Alexandra. 2001. Understanding Teaching Presence Online
(http://www.slideshare.net/alexandrapickett/teaching-presence). SUNY Learning
Network.
 Rovai, Alfred. 2002. Building Sense of Community at a Distance. International Review of
Research in Open and Distance Learning. Vol. 3, No. 1.
 SacCT Discussion Tool: Blogs – How-To (http://www.csus.edu/webct/faculty/blogshow-to-guide.pdf)
 SacCT Discussion Tool: Journals – How-To
(http://www.csus.edu/webct/faculty/journals-how-to-guide.pdf)
 SacCT documentation (http://www.csus.edu/webct/faculty/docs.stm)
 SacCT Grading Forms – How-To (http://www.csus.edu/webct/faculty/gradingformhow-to-guide.pdf)
 Stemwedel, Janet D. 2005. Rubrics, Roles, and Successful Online Discussions. Online
[email protected]
 Vanderpool, Lucia. 2005. Motivating Participation in Online Discussion. Online [email protected]
 Working with Small Groups in an Online Classroom
(http://www.onlinelearning.net/InstructorCommunity/workingwithgroups.html?s=226
.q050q695b.095g321y41). OnlineLearning.net
SUPPORT
ATCS support staff are available for consultation via:
▪ E-mail at [email protected]
▪ The ATCS Front Desk at 278-3370
▪ The Faculty/Staff Resource Center (ARC 3012)
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